In the many years I have been researching old Wickford, or our Bygone Years, I’ve heard stories of a POW Camp in lower Nevendon Road, which housed Italian prisoners. Never confirmed, and I can’t find any wartime POW records that can confirm it. But an Army Camp was erected on land adjacent to what is now Wickford Fire Station, on the corner of Hyde Way. During the build up to D-Day I had it confirmed that the camp was occupied by the army and on Saturday evenings Wickford’s ‘ladies of the night’ used to be waiting outside for the soldiers to help relieve them of their pay! What is certain is that after the war the camp stood abandoned and the homeless then called ‘Squatters’ moved in for accommodation. As can be seen by these three photographs, the family that presented me with these pictures and my own sister-in-law and her family were former occupants of Wickford’s ‘Great Escape’. As can probably be seen from the pictures, life couldn’t have been easy for people who had been bombed out and lost everything and who had nowhere else to go. At one point the Council cut their electricity supply in an attempt to move the residents on. These people, many who had come down from London, actually paid rent, but were called squatters, two families to a barrack I’m told. Most of these poor people were re-housed in 1948 on the Highcliff Estate, Southend Road.
The very last of the huts became Wickford’s original clinic and as a baby I had all my jabs there. This was taken looking at myself in my mother’s arms, 1953/4, my mum is situated just to the right of the door, front row looking at the baby, which is yours truly.
The Clinic’s staff are extreme right of the picture in their starched white overall coats, the actual man who administered the jabs stands beneath the Essex Shield.
I hope this helps with those searching for information on the Nevendon Road Army Camp. I still have another gentleman to interview on his memories spent there as a former Squatter, when I have finished the interview I’ll publish the gentleman’s comments on the archive.
Editor’s comment. There are quite a few comments about the ‘POW camp’ attached to the article, “Runwell Remembered – the war years.”